Miss Croghan’s Accessories, Part 1: Things Get Ruff

When I first started interpreting 1816, I loved pretty much every aspect of clothing (as I do in many eras) but there was one accessory I shook my head at. I laughed about it. I swore I would never wear it. You’ll see what I mean:

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The Ruff. (These are, in order, an 1815 fashion plate from Costume Parisien, an 1815 fashion plate by John Bell and an 1815 sketch by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, one of my favorite portrait painters.)

I thought it was silly. Why would anyone want to make their neck wider? Or look like a disgruntled chicken fluffing her feathers?

But it says something about how fashion works that the longer I’ve been doing Regency, and the more images I look at, the more I like the ruff. It’s frilly and feminine, and it’s one of those details that is so beautifully, distinctly a part of its era. It can really give a period outfit that finishing touch that makes it seem like more than a costume.

And ruffs like these, inspired by Elizabethan fashion, stuck around though the 18-teens and into the ’20s. In 1822, when Ann Croghan wed Thomas Jesup, they were still fashionable in all shapes and sizes:

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(Extant dress ca. 1818, 1822 La Belle Assemble Fashion Plate, 1822 Ackermann’s Repository Fashion Plate)

So I set out to make my  very own chemisette with attached ruff (a chemisette is a simple garment that fills in the neckline of a low-cut gown in order to make it more modest for use during the day). The nice part about this particular accessory is that when it has done its duty for the wedding, it can go into my regular 1816 wardrobe. I kept the ruff on the small side for 1822 in order to ensure that this is the case.

IMG_0382The basic structure of a chemisette is incredibly simple. The body has three pieces: one back piece and two front pieces (I believe they can also go the other way, with the opening in the back). The real fun and interest of a chemisette comes with the collar: plain, ruffled, lacy, embroidered, or full on ruff. Mine is made of cotton voile, so it is a bit sheer, but not overly so.

IMG_0383 IMG_0384The only seams in the body are at the shoulders. Since there’s no lining, I made these french seams, meaning that I sewed a narrow seam with the wrong sides together, then flipped it around with right sides together and sewed a second seam that encased the raw edges. I flipped back the fabric edge for the second photo so you can see both the finished edge and the raw edge it is enclosing.

IMG_0388 IMG_0389Then it’s time to hem, and hem, and hem. Every edge but the neck needs a hem. The bottom hem is slightly wider so that you can put a string though to secure it under the bustline.

IMG_0391 The collar is tall, so that it can fit plenty of lacy goodness, with overlapping points in the center where it comes together. Like most collars, it is made of two identical pieces sewn together, which makes neat edges all around, and gives a bit of extra stability for attaching those ruffles.

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Since the collar needs to fit snugly around my neck, the body of the chemiette had to be gathered into it, which I think adds another level of pretty detail. With the collar attached, the only thing left to do was the lace. I got a pretty simple cotton lace with a pattern of dots for it, since all those layers meant the pattern wouldn’t be very visible anyway. Plus the dots imitate the dotted Swiss dress fabric, which I enjoy.

Now the fun part! (Look at me accidentally taking pictures going every which way)

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My chemisette and lace even got to come with me on a trip to my parent’s house in Michigan. (See that blue carpeting? Chicago O’Hare.)

Once the lace was all gathered and attached, I just had to add a couple of strategic hook and eyes and here it is:

IMG_0417 IMG_0418I took pictures first without the dress, so you can see how the whole thing works. Next time I do one of these, I’ll get more lace and gather it more so that it really wants to stand out, but I think this is a nice not-too-ostentatious start to my ruff-wearing experience.

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Here it is with the dress on.
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Bonus picture: I made a corded petticoat last week (no blog post about that because there’s only so many pictures you can take of sewing 25 pieces of cord between two layers of fabric before everyone falls asleep), so here’s a picture of the dress with all its corresponding underthings in place.

The event is coming up quickly (only three weeks!), so it’s good to see things coming together. There’s still a wig and veil to complete, though! Don’t forget to come see it at Locust Grove on July 18th!

Hannah

The Wedding of Miss Croghan, Part 4: Finis

Deep breath. And. IT’S FINISHED! Exactly one month to the day after I started this crazy journey, Ann Croghan’s wedding gown is complete. As you could see in my last post, things were winding down last weekend. The skirt decoration was finished, the dress was shaped like a dress, the lining was in, but there was still a ways to go.

As you may remember from my first post about this project, the sleeves were inspired by these from an original 1822 wedding gown:

982b221e7324c6dab295108f5ca83308I had been putting them off for three weeks, but everything else was done, and and it was time to face the sleeves.

The first step was to cut out the pieces. The white piece is a bit larger than the blue so that it can get gathered in the center. I carefully drew and cut out the teardrop shapes so that the blue would show through.

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But, of course, when you cut a bunch of holes in your fabric, you have to do something to keep it from falling apart, so I bound the edges of the slashes in blue.

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While that was a long and fiddly task, the tricky part was doing the little button loops that contain the excess fabric between each set of slashes.

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First I used the extra bias strips that didn’t go into binding the slashes and made little flat cords, like spaghetti straps.
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Then I covered some little buttons I had lying around with more of the blue fabric.
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I attached each button to one of the fabric cords to make a loop.

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Once those were done, I just wrapped them through the slashes, secured the button, arranged the extra fabric how I liked it, and stitched them in place.

When the sleeve pieces were sitting on the table after I’d cut them out, Brandon walked by and asked “What are those football things?”

“Sleeves.”

“No they’re not.”

“Seriously. I promise. They will one day look like sleeves!”

IMG_0321IMG_0323So I set out to prove that they would indeed, someday look like sleeeves. The first step was to gather the lower part of the sleeve into the sleeve band, then to sew the underarm seam to form a ring. (No picture of that since I figured you’d seen enough pictures of me sewing a seam that could or could not be the one I was talking about).

IMG_0325IMG_0326And then to fold under the sleeve binding and stitch it in place to create a nice edge. See? Now they look like sleeves (sort of). It’s easy to forget how bizarre pattern pieces look unless you know what you’re looking at.

IMG_0327 IMG_0329Here’s what I get for doing things out of the natural order. I had to wrestle with the entire heavy dress while I gathered the sleeves onto the bodice and stitched them in place. But look how pretty! The puffs are longer and the extra fabric in the center a bit less than in the inspiration, but I’ll take it!

But puffs weren’t the only part of the sleeves! I used the white fabric with no blue underneath to create the rest of the sleeve, so that it would be a little sheer, and stitched it to the inside of the sleeve band on the puff.

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As we all know, every wedding dress could use more lace! So I added some at the cuff and sleeve band.

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We’re down to the smallest finishing touches now!

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Buttons and buttonholes.
Hemming the blue underskirt.
Hemming the blue underskirt.

That’s it! With that final anticlimactic and interminable seam, I was finished! The height of the skirt back may need a bit of adjustment once I’ve completed my corded petticoat and tried it on, but here it is!

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Once again, I couldn’t have done this without help from some fantastic ladies! I can’t wait to show you all the rest of the outfit as it comes together (or maybe I’ll make you wait until July to see it all together!). If you possibly can, don’t forget to come to the Locust Grove Historic Picnic on July 18th. You’ll get to see the dress in action at a period ceremony, plus lots of other fun stuff including dancing, a reading by the Kentucky Shakespeare Company and much more!

You can also read about the making of the chemisette! And the veil!

Thanks for watching!

Hannah

To see the entire finished ensemble, click here!

The Wedding of Miss Croghan, Part 3: Poof? Puff? Pouf?

Welcome back to the story of the 1822 wedding dress for the wedding of Ann Croghan and Thomas Jesup at Historic Locust Grove–if you haven’t read parts 1 & 2, please check them out!

My big triumph for the beginning of the week was getting all of those pintucks done!

IMG_0271Once I was down to the final cluster, I took a pintuck vacation to sew the waistband onto the bodice. It was important to do this before I completed the last few pintucks, because I could then hem the skirt, pin it to the bodice and try it on to test the length. Good thing I did, too, because I ended up only needing two more pintucks, instead of four! (After another look at my research images, I realized it should be a bit longer than I had originally planned for).

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Getting closer! It’s pretending to be all one piece!

But an end to pintucks didn’t mean an end to skirt decoration. I still had an uphill slog before the skirt was ready to go. What more fiddly bits could it possible need, you ask? Why the poofs of course! Every bride needs her fair share of over-the-top accents.

IMG_0273Like all ruffle-related accents, they took up more time than seemed necessary, but I gave myself three days, including an entire Saturday, to work on them. Each one started with a band of fabric nearly twice as big around as the actual skirt. The worst part about ordinary ruffles is that you have to hem the darn things, and hemming 145 inches of fabric for each ruffle is no picnic. Luckily, no hems were needed here. Instead, each piece had to be creased under, then get a gathering stitch along both edges. Thank you again to Judy and Heather, who got two thirds of that pain in the butt done for me!

IMG_0275IMG_0274I divided each poof into quarters to make it easier to gather evenly, and put them on the skirt one quarter at a time. Each quarter was pinned into its section of skirt, gathered to fit, pinned to within an inch of its life and stitched. The real majesty of the poof doesn’t show until you pull out the gathering stitches.

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Finished poof on the left, next prepared section on the right.

Saturday morning, Brandon and I went on a great hike (the first one since his surgery, and he says he wants to keep doing it!), rewarded ourselves with ice cream, and then I settled down to this for the rest of the day:

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Okay, okay, I tell a lie, I actually settled down to this:

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No, this is not the first time I’ve watched the whole thing in one sitting.
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Two down, one to go.

After sixteen hours (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) of gathering, pinning and sewing, all three poofs were present and accounted for:

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Removing all of the blue marks. Scared the cats to death.

Finally, finally, finally, the skirt is finished!!! Time to move on to more exciting things!

IMG_0305 IMG_0306Lest you were afraid there wasn’t enough lace going on with this wedding dress, here I am tacking some all around the neckline so that it will form an adorable ruffle once the lining is sewn in.

IMG_0307IMG_0308I spent a lot of my lining-sewing time holding the project up to the light to make sure the lace was laying correctly. The last thing I wanted was to have to tear part of it out to fix something. Huzzah for sheer fabrics!

IMG_03171822 bodice 2And this is why you check and check and check… because when you turn everything around and press it, the lace is all pretty and perfect! And guess what? This is the LAST photo of the bodice all by itself!

IMG_0319 IMG_0320Yes, indeed! Time at last to add a placket to the skirt and gather the skirt into the waistband! There was so much fabric to gather into just a couple of inches on each side of the skirt back, I was almost afraid it wasn’t going to fit. But I crammed it all in there and managed to get a needle through it and, at long last, the dress is all one piece!

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The short sleeves in the picture are just my shift sleeves showing, they’ll be all covered up when I get the real sleeves in. I’m thrilled with how the color looks. It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but you can really see the blue through the white, and it makes a really nice effect on the ruched front and between the poofs on the skirt.

Now just to make those lovely sleeves and add a few finishing touches–see you next week for (fingers crossed) the final installment!

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

Hannah

You can read all about finishing the wedding gown in The Wedding of Miss Croghan, Part 4!